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Palm Coast’s Karl Westgate, 19, Dies in Prison 7 Weeks After Sentence for Child Rape

| March 24, 2016

karl westgate killed

Karl Westgate at his plea and sentencing hearing last May, two months before his death. (c FlaglerLive)

Karl Westgate, the 19-year-old Palm Coast resident sentenced last summer to 25 years in prison for molesting an 11-year-old girl, died in prison 48 days after his incarceration, and five weeks after writing a Flagler County judge to say that his plea had been coerced, and that he wanted his case re-opened.

Nothing was done by the court system or the public defender’s office—which had defended Westgate—after receiving his letter: Reginal Nunnally, his public defender, was shocked to learn of his death—from a reporter—and had to take a moment to collect herself before addressing matters related to the case when asked about it earlier this week.

Westgate was sentenced by Circuit Judge J. David Walsh last May 14. Until then, he had spent 221 days at the Flagler County jail, time that was credited to his sentence. He was then sent through the Florida prison system ending up in the East Unit of Apalachee Correctional Institution, a 1,322-bed prison for minimum and medium-security inmates off of I-10 just to the west of Tallahassee. The Department of Corrections records his death as taking place on July 16, or three days before his 20th birthday. Probation officials informed the Flagler court on Aug. 14 that he had died.

“They call it prison justice,” Daniel Westgate wrote FlaglerLive. “He was a dead man the minute they sentenced him.”

Prison officials would not detail anything surrounding his death. “The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is proactively working with FDLE to provide investigatory assistance,” the Department of Corrections’ communications office wrote FlaglerLive in an email. “The Department will employ all available resources to ensure that a thorough investigation is completed. As this is an open and active criminal investigation, this is all of the information available at this time.”

But a week after the initial publication of this article, a prison official said that although the medical examiner’s report has not yet been released, “it’s not entirely accurate to say that he was killed,” but rather, that “he died while incarcerated.” The implication is that Westgate took his own life.

Daniel Westgate–his father– and Westgate’s sister, however, say that Daniel had received letters from his son saying that his life was being repeatedly threatened, that in his last letter he said he’d asked to be placed in protective custody. The request was rebuffed.

Westgate was convicted on a series of sex crimes resulting from his relationship with an 11-year-old girl that entailed his sending her lewd pictures of himself, coercing her into sending naked pictures of herself, and subsequently visiting her at her home and raping her in her bedroom. He continued the rape even as the victim tried to push him off and complained of pain.

Inmates serving sentences for sex crimes against children, particularly very young children, are at a notoriously high risk to be themselves the victims of violence or murder by other inmates, who rank child-sex offenders at the lowest rung of the prison hierarchy, along with snitches. Last November, William Dillow, a 27-year-old man serving 45 years for raping two prepubescent girls–his girlfriend’s daughters–was murdered at Jefferson Correctional Institution, an 1,179-inmate prison in Monticello, just east of Tallahassee. The girlfriend, Rhonda Wilkerson, is serving 50 years.

On Wednesday, Waldemar Rivera, a 38-year-old Palm Coast man, was found guilty in Flagler County Circuit Court of raping his 13-year-old step-daughter two years earlier. He is to be sentenced on April 26 at a hearing when individuals on both sides of the issue may address the court to ask either for a harsher or more lenient sentence. For sex offenders, however, the length of the sentence may not affect their tenuous fate as they enter the prison system.

According to the Department of Corrections, 40 inmates have been victims of homicides between 2010 and 2015 in Florida prisons, not including some 300 pending cases. The homicides are not explained.

Westgate had had a troubled life before his final incarceration. He’d been charged with burglary, theft, and fraud in the two years before his arrest on the sex charges.

He was sentenced wholesale to five years for burglary, five years for grand theft, 15 years for dealing in stolen property, 25 years for lewd and lascivious molestation of a girl younger than 12, five years for transmitting lewd materials to a minor, 15 years for use of a child in a sexual performance, and 25 years for lewd and lascivious molestation of a person younger than 12 (all to be served concurrently), followed by life on sex-offender probation and the designation as a sexual predator.

On June 6, Westgate wrote Judge Walsh. He claimed that since his incarceration at Apalachee, “I have not been able to contact my public defender or family to get any legal materials, or do any case work or start an appeal in my case. I would like to withdraw my plea and go fully through trial. I have reason of insufficient counsel, I have a wrong sentence, and was coerced into my plea.”

An inmate who tendered a plea may, under various circumstances, do what Westgate was requesting even after being sentenced.

He could have been out after serving 80 percent of his sentence, in early 2035, when he would have been 40: still young enough to have a life.

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31 Responses for “Palm Coast’s Karl Westgate, 19, Dies in Prison 7 Weeks After Sentence for Child Rape”

  1. Jack Howell, PhD says:

    Prison justice is brutal on those who rape and molest children. Convicts totally detest this crime and those who commit them. Don’t think I can find a tear for Westgate!

  2. Bc. says:

    Not that I have any sympathy for child molesters and rapist but the prison system should isolate them it’s seems like they no that they will be harmed or killed. A 19 year kid may have been rehabilitated he wasn’t given the death penalty at his trial.

  3. Moe Syzlak says:

    Good… he’ll never hurt anyone ever again

  4. Howard Duley says:

    The whole legal system is as useless as tits on a wart hog. Don’t get me wrong-I’m not defending this kid but if he ha been a politician of some reknown he wouldn’t even have smelled a cell never mind being locked up.. Lets see what happens to Dennis Hastard when he is sentenced..

  5. Woody says:

    Oh well that ends well

  6. Linda Sparda says:

    As i have stated before sexual predators are not given special treatment for their crimes. They are put in general population. Inmates dont like these kind of inmates. Chances are they dont stand a chance.

  7. confidential says:

    He was only 19…and he was not condemned to death. It is inhumane to allow these crimes in prison! This kid was not a mass murderer. Now all this secrecy about how he was murdered..? Wrong to say the least.

  8. Veteran says:

    Well I guess prisoners believe in the death penalty for child molesters.

  9. NeuroRN says:

    Prison is dangerous. Don’t rape little girls and you won’t get killed in prison for raping little girls.

  10. I/M/O says:

    Definitely a Black Eye for those of us who believe in justice and a civilized society.

    This is a theft from law abiding society by vigilantes.

    Society sentenced him to 25 years, Not death. Inmates have no right to circumvent that sentence by Murder.

    Puts the inmates rather than society in charge of the prison. Nobody should agree with that. .

  11. James says:

    The prison system. Inherently unjust and inhuman is the ultimate expression of injustice and inhumanity in our society at large. Those of us on the outside do not like to think of wardens and guards as our sourogets yet they are. And they are intimately locked in a deadly embrace behind prison walls. By extinction so are we. A terrible double mune is thus imparted by the original question of human ethics. Am I my brothers keeper?

  12. The Ultimate Judge says:

    The judicial system did it’s job in convicting Karl Westgate if he in fact did the crime. But all this “prison justice” stuff is a bunch of bull-crap. A kid no matter the crime being put in the system is a tough way to go. These inmates who prey on guys like Westgate are not the hand of God, they themselves are predators looking for victims and young sex offenders in prison who are easy prey. Doing time myself as a teen 16-17 in NYS (not for sex crimes) and having been locked-down with adults have seen how it works. Karl Westgate was going to have problems from the beginning his charge just made it worse. So don’t be fooled into believing that his murderer was some sort of guardian of children and women it’s just a convenient excuse for a killer to act like a deviant. And if you don’t care about the departed at least give his family some dignity, after all he was convicted and was trying to serve his time let God decide who lives or dies not vengeful, weak humans.

  13. confidential says:

    Do we have respect for human rights in Florida…? Why these crimes are allowed in prison? And sure he deserve prison, but not whatever death he received that maybe is too gruesome to report.

  14. sayjack says:

    His killer or killers used his crime as an excuse to commit murder. We all suffer when our prisons are understaffed to the point that inmates prey upon other inmates. It has only gotten worse in Florida’s prison system. The legislature refuses to properly staff institutions and refuses to attract well qualified applicants to the profession.

  15. Fredrick says:


  16. Cyd Weeks says:

    My condolences to his family…and his victim.

  17. Dave says:

    Well he raped a 11 year old little girl. His death in prison should send a message to the creeps out there that pray on young children, if you hurt a young child you WILL pay for your crime in prison, the hard way.

  18. Ocala Blue says:

    There are plenty of CO’s that make it their business to let inmates know of the crimes that other inmates have committed…

  19. Laura says:

    Confidential keeps asking why this type of crime is allowed in prison … It’s not. People in prison are not there for following the rules, quite the opposite.

  20. Anonymous says:

    As the parent of a child who was raped at the age of 12, I have ZERO sympathy for this “person”. My daughter will deal with the repercussions if this for the rest of her life. Am I supposed to feel sorry for the sick bastards who commit these heinous acts? I’ll reserve my sympathy for the innocent victims.

  21. Stephanie says:

    In AZ they are segregated from GP

  22. chopshop says:

    the prison system takes care of what the judge and jury don’t have the balls to do. justice for under age little people.

  23. theevoice says:

    this boy was way no how should anyone be murdered/raped in prison..these guards are being paid to guard not to turn the other way for prison revenge..dont get me wrong, i HATE these scumbags BUT if he was given the death penalty and executed by the stae its a.o.k. with me

  24. theevoice says:

    this boy was way no how should anyone be murdered/raped in prison..these guards are being paid to guard not to turn the other way for prison revenge..dont get me wrong, i HATE these scumbags BUT if he was given the death penalty and executed by the state its a.o.k. with me..NOT BY THESE PRISON INMATES AND GUARDS!!!!!!!!!

  25. Ryan says:

    Karmas a bitch. He isn’t a victim and no one should have sympathy for him. He killed himself through his own actions. That poor 11 year old little girl. There’s no rehabilitation for that crime.

  26. Christopher willey says:

    I was actually friends with Karl when I was younger. He always had problems, but I did not know that he would become like this. Raping anyone is unforgivable. If you’d ask me, I say he deserved everything he got. He stole her innocence from her, so shall his life be taken from him.

  27. Brandy Cutter says:

    Chris, I was so unsure if this was the same Karl that sat behind me in band or not, and now I know after seeing your name. How sickening. He was always an ass to me, but definitely never saw something like this coming. :(

  28. palmcoaster says:

    This so called “prison justice” is just plain and simple and abuse of human rights. I for sure find rape repulsive and a brutal act that should not be committed, but when prison is given to a perpetrator in court, that sentence is what should be served and not instead to be butchered (sent to the gallows) while serving the term and even worst hiding the crime to the families of the prisoner killed. This young prisoner asked for help and was denied, then a double crime was committed here: his raping of an innocent girl and his murder on prison and we all should feel guilty of the outcome. We sure can have compassion for the world but not for our own?

  29. Christopher willey says:

    It’s insane. I thought he was intellectual. Such a waste

  30. Brittany says:

    People talk all this shit about someone who had a kid that he wanted. He has a beautiful baby boy that is left without his father. He always talked about how much he loved his son. He was wrongfully trialed and some peoplr may never know that. People say it was justice to kill him. But where was the justice. Nobody has to live with the death but his parents and his son. How do u think his son’s mother is going to explain that. U wouldnt know because yall arent in her shoes. Nobody here making all the fucked up remarks have to explain to his son that his biological father is dead because his dad fucked up. When his son gets older his mother has to explain everything to him and see all the hurtful shit people said about his dad. How would any of yall feel if u had to tell ur son or daughter their father is dead because of prison justice. None of yall. Thats me. My son gets to see all these harmful things people say about him and im the one that has to tell him that someone killed his father

  31. Joe says:

    And people who drive under the influence of alcohol, kill, injure, and permanently disable 500 times more children than child molesters. And most will drive drunk again. Should we or (fellow jail inmates) also kill all people who are arrested for DUI to make sure they don’t kill a child in the future?

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